Yesterday, on the day that polling opened for the new leaders of the Green Party, I voted for Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsey to be the new co-leaders. To explain why I voted for them I want to take you back many decades.
As a child in the 1950’s and 60’s I was intensely aware of the damage, pain and suffering being done to the natural world and to people, and as a teenager I became fascinated by those trying to create better, more peaceful, less polluting, more socially just ways of doing things. This became a lifelong quest.
I followed the very early developments of the Ecology Party in the 1970’s. I eventually got around to joining the party in 1982, the same year we formed a new branch of the party in Herefordshire. For the next couple of decades we struggled to get our message heard, and as this graph shows we did gradually and very slowly increase our tiny number of councillors. Mainly we fought elections knowing we would lose, which was quite frankly dispiriting. Gradually in odd places the local parties started getting very much better organized and winning seats. One of the leading places was Norwich and one of their first councillors was a very young Adrian Ramsey, first elected in 2003, and he was part of the team that helped Caroline Lucas get elected in 2010 in Brighton. It seemed in rather hip university cities we could indeed win seats.
Chris Williams worked with Adrian and brought this ‘target to win’ model of organization to the West Midlands. Gradually we got better organized and over the last decade or so the Greens went from three to sixty council seats across the region. Chris Williams winning socially deprived Chelmsley Wood and later Ellie Chowns winning in rural Bishops Frome and Cradley showed we could win anywhere, as long as we had a great candidate, a good sized team of activists and excellent organization.
If delivering leaflets and canvassing where you know you are going to lose is dispiriting then doing the same when you can feel the momentum swinging your way is energizing and empowering. In Herefordshire we went from decades struggling to get or retain one councillor to winning seven seats at the last election in 2019. We are now part of a very creative coalition of Greens and Independents and are running the council.
In my years of trying to influence our local Tory MP’s Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin I have come to the conclusion that they are both unable to hear our messages however we express them. The only way to change policy is to replace these MP’s with Greens who understand the scale of global system change that the School Strikes movement and Extinction Rebellion are rightly calling for.
Politically things now seem possible that only a few years ago were the stuff of dreams. The Green Party now has 454 seats across 143 principle authority councils in England and Wales, a dramatic increase from the 173 seats we held in 2018. Last May Bristol Green party, lead by Carla Denyer, made a breakthrough and are now level with Labour, each with twenty-four seats. It seems to me that Adrian Ramsey and Carla Denyer have the experience of being councillors and the skills to organise effective teams and win elections. I think they would be the best leaders of the party and that is why I voted for them.
Creating global system change is essential to combat our interlinked network of crises: climate, ecological, social and political. A better future may or may not be possible, but our best chance of securing that is a complex mix of massive changes that I shall be trying to describe in a book I’m writing, and in the upcoming Millichap talk I’m due to deliver via Zoom on 22nd September. One of those changes has to be to change our elected leaders at every level, everywhere. I can see with Adrian and Carla leading the Green Party we might just win a lot more elections, and replacing Bill Wiggin with Ellie Chowns would be amazing, as would replacing Jesse Norman with Diana Toynbee. Do please join the Green Party, and for those of you in Herefordshire come and join our rapidly growing and highly energized local team.